By Janet Phelan
Six months after Charles Castle suddenly and inexplicably died, the San Bernardino County Coroner has still not come up with a stated cause of death. And according to a Deputy in that office, a critical report is “missing” from Charlie Castle’s file.
I had spoken with Charlie Castle on the evening of January 15 at around 8 pm. He was frustrated with how long he had been deprived of his freedom and specifically dismayed at the fact that his long awaited trial on his mental health detention had been delayed just the week before.
“They can’t hold you much longer,” I told him. “The accumulated evidence of fraud in your case is overwhelming, Charlie.” I then made a bold promise to him. “You will be free soon.”
Two hours later, Charlie Castle was pronounced dead.
His saga is a case study in attorney/court collusion in denying a conservatee his rights to contest a mental health conservatorship. In addition, responsible parties within the mental health and police systems declined to act according to their professional mandates. All of this stand down resulted in Castle being deprived of his freedom and eventually, it appears, his life.
Castle, who was homeless in Redlands, California, was picked up by court employees Bob Jabel and Wayne Henkelman in June of 2011 and taken to San Bernardino Arrowhead Regional Center, where he was placed under a conservatorship. The Public Guardian was named conservator and Castle was represented by the law firm of Bryan Hartnell, who has the County contract to represent mental health conservatees. Castle stated he was never in front of a judge but waited outside the courtroom while his attorney “took care of things.” His conservatorship was then transferred to a private conservator, Melodie Scott, who was represented in these proceedings by . . . the law firm of Bryan Hartnell.
At one juncture, a judge pro tem, Walter Moore, was appointed to preside over the case. Moore had also been an attorney with the law firm of Bryan Hartnell.
When the issue of Hartnell’s representing both sides of the case hit the press Hartnell resigned. Melodie Scott resigned shortly thereafter. Before Hartnell left the case, however, he fired a shot deep into the heart of Castle’s desire to have a jury trial in his case.
Hartnell indeed filed for a rehearing, as Castle had requested. Betraying his client’s desires, Hartnell’s petition specifically stated that a jury trial would be unnecessary.
Prior to resigning the case, Hartnell’s office refused to give Castle his legal file, telling him it would be a “felony” for the firm to provide its client his file. At one point in time, a lie like that would have cost an attorney his license. Hartnell, however, is still breezily representing conservatees apparently with the same reckless disregard for their rights.
When Castle filed a writ of habeas corpus to have his detention reviewed by a judge, Conservator Melodie Scott began moving him from facility to facility, like a pawn in a shell game. She attempted to have him admitted anonymously to at least one facility, making it difficult for those attempting to assist Castle in his pursuit of freedom to locate him. As a result of his repeated forced relocations, Castle was never served with the judge’s response to his writ. In the space of a few weeks, Castle was moved to four different facilities in two different counties.
Along the way, appeals were made to a number of different agencies which are mandated with addressing mental health concerns and pertinent legal issues. California Disability Rights refused to take Castle’s case, as did Mental Health Advocates in Los Angeles. The Ombudsman for Nursing Care facilities in Los Angeles took no steps to assist Castle. When an appeal was made to Patients’ Rights in Los Angeles County, Advocate Rashied Jibri hung up on the caller, after being queried as to the reasons for his refusal to look into the Castle matter.
When Castle was subsequently relocated to San Bernardino County in, the SB County Ombudsman went out to see him and declined to address his concerns. In one sole act that distinguished her from every other government worker who received an appeal concerning Castle, an employee from the Department of Public Health went out to Desert Manor in Yucaipa and cited the facility for violating Castle’s rights to make and receive phone calls and to receive visitors.
Adult Protective Services in San Bernardino County told the caller that they don’t investigate matters relevant to conservatees. When asked to provide the law which allows that agency to stand down when the at-risk elder is under a conservatorship, APS was unable to provide one.
Charlie Castle was scheduled to finally have his day in court this past January. However, on the appointed day Charlie was not in court. His new attorney, Mark Flory, told him that his trial was again delayed because the conservator, the Public Guardian (re-appointed after Melodie Scott’s resignation) did not make the necessary arrangements to bring him into court that day. Less than a week later, Castle was dead.
The first three calls asking for a Coroner’s investigation were curiously deleted from the dispatch call center. After it became clear that the caller was not going to be so easily deterred, a Coroner’s office investigation was launched into Castle’s sudden demise.
Last week, Coroner’s Deputy Gabe Morales told me that the report had not been finished yet. Morales also admitted that the toxicology exam, which could be the pivotal evidence as to cause of death, had been curiously removed from the file.
Another suspicious death of a conservatee, Raymond Horspool, produced a Riverside County Coroner’s report that could only be considered finessed. According to reports, Horspool weighed only 137 pounds at the time of his death, a grave drop from his normal 190 lb. weight. His daughter, Barbara Howard, leveled accusations that her father was killed with morphine. Indeed, the Coroner’s report listed morphine as one of the drugs being given Raymond Horspool at the time of his death. Curiously, Horspool was not reported as having any condition which would have mandated him receiving morphine. His precipitous weight loss could well be ascribed to what happens when people are plied with morphine: They don’t eat.
The Coroner’s report oddly neglected to mention the weight of Horspool’s body at the time it showed up at that office. In addition, the Coroner refused to do a toxicology exam, over the protests of Howard and other family members. If it looks like a cover up and quacks like a cover up . . . well, what do you think?
Parenthetically, Raymond Horspool was the father of Melodie Scott’s attorney, J. David Horspool. After placing his father under a conservatorship and virtually kidnapping his Dad away from his wife, Horspool proceeded to use his extraordinary influence with the San Bernardino judges to loot his own father’s estate.
At the time of going to press, this reporter has learned that another concern surrounding an at-risk conservatee in Los Angeles has been assigned to LA County Patient’s rights advocate Rashied Jibri to investigate. Jibri, you recall, was the advocate who hung up the phone rather than reply to questions why he would not address Charlie Castle’s plight.
A request to have this transferred to another investigator has been ignored. In this case, LA County Department of Mental Health employee Steve Dobbs refused to honor a waiver of confidentiality signed by the individual prior to being conserved and effectively hid him from friends for over a year. The man was finally located in a Culver City board and care, depressed and drugged to the gills. The waiver of confidentiality subsequently “disappeared” from the DMH files, according to Steve Dobbs’ co-worker, Dr. Nilsa Gallardo.
Illinois attorney Ken Ditkowsky has called for an investigation of the nationwide prevalence of what he is calling “elder cleansing.” Ditkowsky has likened what is happening to conservatees to the plight of the elderly and disabled in Germany in the thirties and forties. They were the first victims of Hitler’s master race agenda. Ditkowsky’s repeated pleas to the United States Department of Justice have gone unresponded to.
Writes Ditkowsky: “We watch any attorney who opens his mouth in protest having to fight for his/her license as the IARDC (and similar organizations) think it unethical for attorneys to speak out against elder cleansing!”
In reference to questionable acts by attorneys in these cases, Ditkowsky also states: “From the reaction of government to ‘elder cleansing’ you would think that it and ethic cleansing are laudable occupations and attorneys who spoke out were deviants!”
Another Illinois attorney, JoAnne Denison, is facing a challenge to her license for the act of blogging about these cases. Denison maintains that First Amendment rights also apply to attorneys.
The systemic collusion necessary to deprive our most vulnerable elders and disabled their due process rights requires some concerted and dedicated hanky panky. Many laws were violated in the Castle matter by numerous government agencies and employees. Conservatorships constitute a Constitutional loophole and an entire class of people are regularly being deprived of their rights to due process, their rights to their own property and even the right, it appears now, to stay alive.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad. You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com
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